The History of the Society
The concept of a horticultural society in Ainsdale originated through the auspices of the Men's Club at St John's C of E Church, under the patronage of the Rev George Zachary Edwards.
The fledging society held its first meeting in 1911, when the prime aim was to promote horticulture by way of exhibitions and lectures. However it was not until 25 February 1912 that a public meeting was held and Ainsdale Horticultural Society was formed.
The first Show was set for Saturday 20 July 1912 and was well advertised on the Cheshire Lines Railway (now the Coast Road as it runs through Ainsdale past the Sands Hotel and Pontins) and the Lancashire and Yorkshire Railway Company line (now the Merseyrail line from Southport to Liverpool); there were also advertisements on the screens of the Picturedrome in Southport (now Forum Court on Lord Street) and the Picture Palace (now The Vincent Hotel).
(pic courtesy of http://viewfinder.english-heritage.org.uk)
|Southport Picture Palace:
(pic courtesy of http://southportworld.co.uk/photos)
The Society currently has a direct link to the Founding Fathers as the present Showground Manager's grandfather was both a founding father and the first Honorary Secretary of the Society who therefore played a part in organising that first show.
Clearly the first show set the tradition as regards the entertainment for all the shows to follow thereafter as pierrots, a local band and a choir formed part of those activities; the young people of the village were encouraged to enter the competitions which had certain classes allotted to them so that they were able to compete just as they do today.
It held its first Annual Flower, Fruit and Vegetable Show on Saturday, 20th July 1912, in a marquee erected on land adjacent to the Lakeside Hotel known as "Ainsdale Beach Pleasure Ground" (now the Sands Hotel), the Show being officially opened by Mrs Dalrymple-White, wife of the local MP. It was open from 2 to 8pm and admission was 1/- (free to members, who paid an annual subscription of 2/6d).A 5/- fee secured free entry in all classes, of which there were 87, mostly for roses and sweet peas, but also featuring vegetables, honey and eggs. There were also classes for table decoration and a small section for children. Prize money varied from £2,2s for a first in roses to 1/- for a third in lesser classes. Total prize money amounted to £50, and the total cost of staging as £113.13s, including £12 for hire of the marquee and £11 for publicity and the printing of schedules. Publicity for the early shows was through the Parish Magazine and there was one Winter Talk - on Rose Culture.
Early shows featured a 'Cottager's Section', to qualify for which one had to be a day labourer (not a gardener) or a working man resident in Ainsdale, not having a greenhouse and living in accommodation costing no more than £20 per annum! It is small wonder that this section was abandoned after a few years for lack of support.
The second show, in 1913, and subsequent shows until 1923 were held, by kind permission of the Weld-Blundells, on 'The Field' at the corner of Sandringham and Shore Roads, land occupied, until recently, by Barclays Bank and adjacent buildings.
Shows were held in 1915 and 1916, with profits being distributed to various patriotic funds, including the local hospital. In 1916 the show was attended by 50 war-wounded.
Entertainment was provided in the early shows by way of an orchestra, choral singing, piano playing and dancing round the maypole. Evening concerts were held in the marquee, courtesy of 'The Blue Bags'. Sideshows were introduced in 1927. Meanwhile, Poultry classes, introduced in 1921, attracted entries from as far afield as Chesterfield, York and Bradford; a rabbits and small animal section, introduced in 1934, was discontinued in 1939; a photographic section, started in the 1930s, was discontinued in 1939, but revived in the 1980s and is still very well supported. Participation events in the showground arena between the wars included a pet show (still popular), pretty ankles competitions, decorated cycles, fancy dress and Scottish dancing - to name but a few.
During the Second World War the show was, of necessity, suspended and might never have survived, had it not been for the Rev Anthony Dixon and St John's Church again, because all the Society's wordly goods were destroyed by a bomb which fell on a shed on the cricket ground where the equipment was stored. Mr Dixon resurrected the show on a Saturday afternoon in August 1945, when it was held for two hours in the Church Hall. Before the War the show had been held on the Recreation Ground on Liverpool Road and on the Ainsdale Club ground. Since the War it has more appropriately been held every year on the Village Green, apart from a few years between 1957 and 1962 when it returned to the Recreation Ground.
The Summer Show has always been the Society's main - and most publicly evident - activity, but there have been others: an Autumn Show, an annual Plant Sale, a Garden Competition, outings to places of horticultural interest, and many varied fund-raising projects.